|Sorry, not actually reviewing this!|
Should people hate Twilight? Is the book poorly written? Are people who enjoy it stupid? Or do they just not know any better? To all of the above, the answer, of course, is no. Why not? Because everything is subjective, that’s why.
An aspiring author and friend of mine recently asked me for some advice on his book. He wanted to know if it was any good. I told him that was impossible to answer, because when it comes to fiction, “good” is entirely subjective. All I can do is tell him what I think of it and offer my suggestions. What matters to publishers, on the other hand, is whether a work will sell. Is there a market for this book? is the most common refrain. Publishers are not in the business of judging literary merit, and even critics who attempt to do so can never hope to prove their critiques. Yesterday’s worthless Van Goghs become tomorrow’s million-dollar still lifes; the obscure Moby Dick in somebody’s hard drive may become standard reading for all English majors. Despite exhaustive efforts, no critic has ever produced a fool proof formula for success. If that were even possible, with the billions of dollars spent yearly by publishers, film studios, and gaming companies, a guideline to perfect story telling would have been discovered by now, and every work of art would be loved by all. Instead, Disney loses hundreds of millions to flops like John Carter, which, incidentally, I did not think was all that bad. With our knowledge of literature, the best anyone can do to predict success is slightly better than throwing darts at a wall of titles. My own book reviews must be taken with a grain of salt, with the caveat that these are my opinions only; and I do my best to avoid absolute statements, but for the sake of avoiding repetition, I do not start every sentence with In my humble opinion . . . If there is anything I’ve learned in my thirty years of writing, it’s that there are no absolutes in story telling. To this day, I am continually surprised by the liberties authors take with the medium. This is why the growing popularity of armchair critics unnerves me. Everyone is entitled to hating the Star Wars Prequels, or the ending to Mass Effect 3 or the Twilight books, but nobody should be stating their opinions as fact, or questioning the intelligence of those who disagree.
I have always believed the difference between fact and opinion to be self-evident. Having to write this post is like defending the law of gravity. And yet, it seems not a day goes by that I don’t see comments like, “The Star Wars prequels sucked and you’re a Lucas fanboy!” or “Still a better romance than Twilight!” What do these people hope to accomplish by their ridicule? Do they think they’re changing minds? Has anyone who once loved a book or a movie or a game, after having been insulted, “seen the light?” When I review a book, it’s to enlighten people who are sitting on the fence about reading it. Unfortunately, there exists a need in people to justify an opinion by belittling others, or by invalidating an opposing viewpoint. The people making the most noise do not represent the majority, however. Star Wars is the best example of this disparity. I have met numerous people who love all six movies, but who could care less to defend their positions. Most fans are confident enough that they do not need a justification. But hate memes persist, spreading like viruses, by those who fear falling out of the in-crowd.
For Christmas this year, I picked up the deluxe Blu-Ray box set of The Sound of Music. You can probably guess this wasn’t for my 14 year old nephew. According to my father, now 83, The Sound of Music is the best movie ever made. This begs the question, why isn’t it Star Wars or Lord of the Rings? Another friend, now twenty and studying for a degree in philosophy, told me his favorite film was Star Wars Episode III, not IV, V or VI. Truth is, opinions have nothing to do with facts, and everything to do with emotion. After I started cycling, I found cycling films to be much more entertaining. Having two daughters of my own, I couldn’t help but get choked up by the thinly veiled father-daughter drama that is Wreck-It-Ralph. Opinions are not only subjective, but fickle as well. I now find G*I* Joe: The Movie hard to watch, but as a kid, I couldn’t sleep from excitement after watching it. Rarely do we love the same things equally and in the same way. Sure, we may still love Star Wars, but that love has less to do with some objective quality, and more to do with the way we felt about it when we were young. No movie can recreate the same childhood feelings. It may be sad, but it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be in our eighties, grumbling like my father that “they don’t make good movies anymore,” holding to our copies of The Force Awakens on some DNA based storage system as our grandkids roll their eyes at us.
One of the reasons I love books is that they’re timeless. By comparison, every other story telling medium is in its infancy. But maybe technology will level out, and people will be happily watching Star Wars into the next century. Gilgamesh, after 5000 years, is still an enjoyable read. But I don’t begrudge people who find it boring, who prefer Twilight to Dracula. I could explain every reason to hate it, arguing why Stephanie Meyer can’t hold a candle to David Mitchell or Cormac McCarthy, and it would not mean a thing—should not mean a thing—to Twilight fans.